Just as every individual is unique, so is their pain. A treatment that may work for one person may not work for another. It’s important to work closely with a trained physician or pain management specialist to identify the right treatment option for your condition. Your physician can prescribe several different types of medications to help minimize your pain, depending on the cause of the pain and underlying medical conditions. Remember – not all painkillers are opioids. You do have several options that are non-opioid pain medications that can be highly effective in managing pain.
Non-Opioid Pain Medications:
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – NSAIDs, also commonly known as ibuprofen and aspirin, are available over-the-counter and in prescription strength. These medications are anti-inflammatories and are very good choices for managing acute and chronic pain in the shorter-term. When taken for extended periods of time, however, NSAIDs can cause adverse health effects including kidney damage and stomach bleeding/bleeding ulcers.
- Acetaminophen – Also known by the brand name, Tylenol, acetaminophen is another over-the-counter pain reliever that can be beneficial for managing short-term acute pain. Do not take more than 4,000 mg within a 24-hour period as severe liver failure may occur. Acetaminophen is sometimes combined with an opioid medication such as codeine, which is only available in a prescription.
- Antidepressants – Some antidepressant medications have been shown to be effective at managing pain, specifically tricyclic antidepressants. These medications are taken at lower doses when prescribed for managing pain than when taken for managing depression. Antidepressants are typically prescribed for chronic pain conditions as they must be taken every day in order for them to be effective over time.
- Anticonvulsants (anti-seizure medication) – These medications can be helpful at managing certain types of nerve pain. Like antidepressants, anticonvulsants are not to be taken on an “as needed” basis. Rather, they need to be taken every day for them to be effective over a longer period of time.
- Muscle relaxants – These medications are typically prescribed for acute pain caused by muscle spasm and are taken for a short period of time.
- Pain patches – to avoid common side effects of oral medications such as stomach upset, diarrhea, and ulcers, a physician may prescribe certain types of pain patches. Nan-narcotic pain patches include Lidocaine patches which help control burning or stinging at the application site. These patches can be effective for some inflammatory nerve conditions such as shingles but do come with their own set of side effects. Topical anesthetic patches are over-the-counter pain patches used for providing relief from irritating skin conditions such as insect bites, poison ivy or minor cuts.
Opioid Pain Medications
When taken exactly as prescribed by a physician, opioid medications can be highly effective pain relievers, especially for those suffering from chronic pain conditions, although these medications tend to be less effective for nerve (neuropathic) pain. For chronic pain, long-acting opioid medications can be most effective and less likely to cause the feeling of euphoria associated with some short-acting opioids.
Take opioid medications ONLY AS PRESCRIBED BY A PHYSICIAN. DO NOT take a dose higher than prescribed and keep the drug out of reach of children. Most individuals can take opioids for pain management without becoming addicted or developing a tolerance of dependence on the drug when taken exactly as prescribed.
Opioid or narcotic pain medications also come in the form of pain patches that are administered through the skin (transdermal). Fentanyl patches are one of the most common forms of narcotic patches. Butrans skin patch is another type of narcotic or opioid skin patch using the medication buprenorphine. These patches are used for around-the-clock treatment of moderate to severe chronic pain that cannot be managed using other pain medications.